Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Director-producer Brett Ratner has closed a new overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television where he has been based for the past 7 years. He is being joined by former NBC development executive-turned-producer Chris Conti, who will serve as president of Ratner’s Rat TV. “It’s impossible not to love Brett,” 20th TV chairman Dana Walden said. “He is a great entertainer, has such love for the business and has the most commercial sense of any creative person I’ve ever worked with.” She praised Ratner for directing the pilot for the Fox drama Prison Break, which “helped reestablish what the 20th Century Fox TV brand is around the world.”

But for the past 7 years, Ratner has directed only one other 20th TV pilot that has gone to series, CBS’ short-lived CIA dramedy Chaos. He has developed and produced a total of 3 series, Prison Break, Chaos and ABC’s Women’s Murder Club. That is mainly because Ratner has been busy working on a wide range of other projects, from directing and producing features, to producing documentaries and TV specials to now producing the Academy Awards. Bringing a seasoned development executive like Conti is expected to keep development and production at Rat TV going full-speed even when Ratner is not around. “Chris is bringing a lot of formidable relationships in the community and will be able to focus Brett in a meaningful and successful way,” Walden said.

Following a 15-year stint at NBC, rising from a page to head of drama development, Conti segued into producing in 2005 with a deal at the network’s sister studio. While at NBC, he had taken pitches from Ratner but didn’t know him personally until the two were recently introduced. “He wanted to grow his company and make it close to what Jerry Bruckheimer and John Wells have built,” Conti said. At the same time I was getting frustrated schlepping along without a company and not having a partner.” He and Ratner are already meeting with writers and are expected to focus on 3-5 drama ideas this development season, gradually expanding into comedy and reality. As for Ratner’s duties as an Oscar producer, Walden said that they will not impact Rat TV’s development, especially now that Conti is on board. Directing-wise, Ratner won’t be able to helm an hourlong pilot during pilot season because he will be in the final stages of Oscar preparations but could direct one off-cycle or a half-hour pilot after the Academy Awards.

At Rat TV, Conti is replacing former president Martha Haight who has since loved to CBS TV Studios to run Mark Harmon’s company. Ratner recently produced hit feature comedy Horrible Bosses, Showtime’s Nick Cannon: Mr. Show Biz special and PBS’ American Masters: Woody Allen documentary. His next movie as a director, comedy Tower Heist, opens in November.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.

Get Deadline news and alerts sent to your inbox.